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“Torchwood: Miracle Day”
a review by Darby O’Gill

Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) & Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) are back! After the disbandment of Torchwood, following the events of Children of Earth, Jack Harkness found himself wondering the galaxy looking for answers, if not forgiveness, and Gwen and her husband Rhys moved to an isolated cottage in Whales to raise their daughter away from the madness of the world. It was only a matter of time until an unforeseen event would undoubtedly bring these two together again, and that event came to be known as “Miracle Day.” It’s the day where no one died. Not a single person. All across the globe, the sick and injured continued to live. And the next day, and the next, and the next, it’s as if the entire planet had become immortal over night. Well, not the entire planet. The earth’s one immortal man from the future, Captain Jack Harkness, finds that he is once again just a mere mortal man, and that whoever, or whatever is behind the miracle wants Torchwood out of the picture once and for all.

The concept behind Torchwood: Miracle Day is great! It really makes you realize just how fast our systems and governments would start to fall apart if an event like this were to ever actually happen. The camps and the treatment of the undead, or “Category Ones” as they’re called on the show, would be unreal! It’s funny to think about just how quickly the rich and powerful can adapt to creating a system that would benefit their needs and interests. Did I say funny? I meant sad.

As great as the story is, one might say, and when I say “one” I mean a Doctor Who fan, that the story is far too big of an event for the Torchwood team to handle alone, and I agree. I think something of this scale would warrant the Doctor’s attention, but that’s just merely a nerd’s gripe. My biggest problem with the show is that that it took ten episodes to tell this story. It really only should have been about six. I understand that creator Russell T. Davies wanted to have the story unfold in a very true and believable manner, but this series was introducing the Torchwood franchise to a much wider U.S. audience, and I think it ultimately hurt them in the long run. With that being said, I really like that they didn’t just reboot the show in America the same way they did with Being Human or Skins. I’m really glad that they just simply created a story that would bring the surviving Torchwood team members to the States. The new American cast members were also outstanding! Bill Pullman’s portrayal of the murdering pedophile Oswald Danes is amazing! The show truly captures the way the media today can turn a disgusting monster into a media poster child. Speaking of the media, Lauren Ambrose’s portrayal of the public relations consultant, Jilly Kitzinger or is it Lucy Statten Meredith now (a little inside joke for those of you that have already seen Miracle Day), makes you realize just how soulless the profession can be at times, and yet she’s still somehow likeable. Mekhi Phifer and Alexa Havins effortlessly gel their way into the team dynamic of Torchwood. And Barrowmen and Myles are as strong as ever! It’s really great to see just how far Gwen Cooper has developed as a character over the last few years. Torchwood: Miracle Day might not be the strongest of the series’ ventures, but it’s definitely worth checking out!

Rating:

 

“Kung Fu Panda Holiday”
a review by Darby O’Gill

It seems like only a year ago that I was saying there should be a Kung Fu Panda holiday special, and one year later here we are. Wow, right?! The power I have in this town, even scares me at times. I not only love the fact that DreamWorks Animation is keeping the spirit of the holiday specials alive and kicking, but they also don’t just phone-it-in like a Disney straight to DVD film. Each special always enlists the talents of its respective films’ original voice talent, no matter how big the name. I really hope that other production houses are considering following in DreamWorks footsteps next year. Are you listening Warner Brothers? Between the Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbara, and DC Comics, you guys are sitting on a smorgasbord of material. One of my all-time favorite holiday specials from when I was a kid is Hanna-Barbara’s Yogi’s First Christmas. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend tracking it down. It was never officially released on DVD, but you can order a made-to-order copy from Warner Bros. directly. Just chick here. They might show it on Boomerang, or even finally release it officially on DVD this year with the upcoming Yogi Bear movie, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

In Kung Fu Panda Holiday, Po finds himself torn between spending the holiday with his new family the Furious Five and his fellow kung-fu masters, or with his father. It’s not until he tries his best to do both, that he realizes what is truly important. Yes, it’s clichéd, but DreamWorks Animation always seems to pull it off in a way that makes it enjoyable and fun at the same time. At one point Po’s father tells him he’s sorry for making him feel guilty, and Po just replies, “That’s what the holidays are all about.” There’s also this great bunny, played by 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer, who has been mistakenly dishonorably disgraced and wishes to die an honorable death, so he’s constantly trying to get Po to kill him. I know, not the type of subject matter you’d expect to find in a children’s holiday special. But, you know what? It’s funny. We also all need to chill out a little bit. We’re getting way too uptight. Three knuckle deep searches at the airport?! I know we want the world to be a better place, but we also need to relax a little bit. Okay, my rant is over for now. Where was I? Oh yeah, Kung Fu Panda. The artistic style of the film comes through masterfully, and the quick animation movements from scene to scene are here as well. I was a big fan of the Kung Fu Panda movie, and can’t wait for this summer’s sequel. Here’s my prediction for next year’s two specials, a Megamind Halloween special in October, followed by a How to Train Your Dragon Christmas. Place your bets now, and we’ll see you next year!

Rating:



“Scared Shrekless”
a review by Darby O’Gill

DreamWorks Animation is bringing back the holiday special once again this year, with two all-new specials. First up is Scared Shrekless, which is this year’s Halloween special. You might remember last year’s Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space, This year we’re getting Shrek and the gang telling some of their best scary stories. I’ve got to tell you, after the last two Shrek movies, I was definitely starting to loose my faith in the franchise, but this special has without a doubt brought it back to its original roots. Unlike the most resent movie, Scared Shrekless is chockfull of clever and witty jokes that play off of the original Fairy Tales. You know, all that stuff that made the first Shrek movie so good; from the Bride of Gingy, to a Puss and Donkey story-off… Okay, that sounded a little dirty. If you missed last night’s special, don’t freak out. You’ll get another chance this Saturday night on NBC. Also be sure to set your DVRs for this year’s Christmas special featuring Kung Fu Panda, which airs on November 24th. I don’t want to take full credit for it, but I did ask for it in my Merry Madagascar review last year. So, just saying…

Rating:


“Merry Madagascar”
a review by Darby O’Gill

DreamWorks Animation released their second holiday special this year, the only problem is they may have jumped the shark a little this time. Now, I’m not a big fan of the Madagascar movies. Truth be told, I only saw the first one and hated it. But, I did try to watch this special with an open mind. My biggest problem with Merry Madagascar is that they aired it a week before Thanksgiving, and not a week before Christmas! I know that everyone is always saying Christmas is starting earlier and earlier each year, but come on! Look, I don’t want see a story about Santa before I even get to eat some turkey. NBC really dropped the ball on this one. I guess I spoke too soon when I praised the first special, Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space. Merry Madagascar reunites the original voice talent from the films, and has the gang filling in for Santa after he gets a case of amnesia. It’s a fun holiday special, but I wouldn’t call it a classic by any means. I’m glad DreamWorks Animation is keeping the holiday special tradition alive, but I just wish they would have aired this one a little closer to Christmas. With that and my dislike for the film series, I’m afraid I have to give this one a lower rating. But, overall it works for what it is. I’m just hoping for a Kung Fu Panda New Year special.

Rating:

2.5 Little People


Before kindergarten we all started our education on the street… Sesame Street. Can you count to forty? Well, thanks to Count Van Count, I can. Sesame Street is turning forty years old today, and they don’t seem a day over five. Sesame Street taught me everything, from near to far, from A to Z, and even that one of these things is not like the other. They even taught me loss. I, to this day, remember the day Mr. Hooper died. My favorite character from the show wasn’t even a regular on the show. No, I’m not talking about Kermit the roaming reporter. My favorite was always Barkley. What!? You don’t know who Barkley is! Barkley is the giant dog. I loved seeing him run down that hill with those kids in the end credits of every show, but would always be devastated when he wasn’t in the show. Which was like 90% of the time. I remember asking my mom, “Why would they show him at the end of every show, but never have him in the show?” I think the best part about Sesame Street for our generation, is that we got to graduate to The Muppet Show when we out grew Sesame Street. I can’t even begin to thank all the men and women who worked on this show over the last forty year, and helped raise billions of kids. However, there are two men, that we should all take a moment to be thankful for today. They are Jim Henson and Frank Oz. Would we even have a childhood without them? Not one I would care to remember.


“Monsters vs. Aliens: Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space”
a review by Darby O’Gill

Just when you thought everything from our childhood was dead. Last night I got to see something I’d never thought I’d see again, a Holiday Special! You remember those don’t you? I’m not talking about Rudolph or Frosty. No, I’m talking about when stars of the Saturday Morning lineup hit primetime with a special holiday tale. Only this time it’s not Saturday Morning answering the call, but rather Hollywood, more specifically DreamWorks Animation. Last night the cast of Monsters vs. Aliens, re-teamed for a half-hour Halloween special, the first of many hopefully. The best part of this is that the original cast of voice talent got back together; so this is not one of those let’s just throw something together projects. DreamWorks Animation is doing it right.
In the special, we find the Monsters getting ready for Halloween, when an alien spaceship makes a quick pit-stop in Modesto, to dump their waste in a pumpkin patch. When the Monsters arrive to investigate, they quickly discover that the pumpkins are starting to come to life. It’s short and sweet, but one thing is for sure. Thanks to DreamWorks Animation, the Holiday Special is now back for a whole new generation. Also look for their Christmas special featuring the cast of Madagascar, in Merry Madagascar this winter.

Rating:
3.5 Little People

“Dollhouse” Season 1
a review by Darby O’Gill

What if you could do anything, be anyone, and nothing you did ever had any consequence? Take one part Quantum Leap, one part Charlie’s Angels, add a truck load of Joss Whedon’s imagination, and you’ve got one hell of a show. If you missed the first season of Dollhouse, you’re in luck because the DVD is out now, and it’s time for you to play catch up. A few of my friends tuned out after episode three, but as I told them, you really need to hang in there till episode six. Episodes one through five are basically stand-alone episodes, to please the network I would imagine, but episode six is a real game changer and is truly where the series shows it’s full potential.

In Dollhouse we follow Echo, played by Eliza Dushku, a seemingly unwilling Active in the Dollhouse, an underground organization that for the right price will program human beings to fit your every need or desire. Actives have had their brains wiped, and are imprinted with new personalities, and abilities, that allow them to become anyone or anything to achieve their objective. What illegal underground organization would be complete, with out an obsessed F.B.I. agent determined to bring them down? Agent Paul Ballard, played by Tahmoh Penikett, finds himself filling that role, and the deeper he digs the more entwined he seems to get. When we first get to the Dollhouse, an Active, codename Alpha, has gone rogue, and in the process has left a trail of bodies in his wake. For some unknown reason Echo was spared. But, that’s not the only unique thing about Echo. She also seems to be retaining, or recalling memories while in her wiped doll state, raising the question, can you ever truly clean a slate?

This show is a dream on so many different levels. For one, it’s an actor’s dream, because they can be a doctor, a lover, a spy, an assassin, or maybe just someone there to help someone that can’t help them self. In episode four, Eliza Dushku and Dichen Lachman play the same character, when Echo and Sierra get imprinted with the same imprint.  Two actors playing the same character, with the same traits and speech pattern at the same time! This is what truly makes this show unique. The cast is amazing! The amount of talent on this show, in front of and behind the camera, truly boggles the mind. The other thing about this show is that it raises smart and intelligent questions dealing with morality. Whether it be slavery, human trafficking, or just basic human rights, Dollhouse once again enforces the belief that mankind will always exploit and abuse any and all technologies they discover. I think the part I liked the most about re-watching season one, was knowing all the twists and turns, and being able to see things I might have missed the first time around. I’ll say it once again; Dollhouse is an amazing television series! Don’t believe me? Well, why don’t you get the DVD, and tune-in to Dollhouse season two this year, and see for yourself? Feel free to thank me later.

Rating:

5 Little People

DVD Special Features:

  • 3 Audio Commentaries on Selected Episodes

Joss Whedon and Eliza Dushku do a commentary track for “Ghost,” where they talk about the show’s shoe budget, and while Eliza’s strawberries maybe loud, Joss’ tummy commentary is louder.

Joss Whedon does a commentary track for “Man on the Street,” and talks about the importance of the turning point in this episode.

Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen do a commentary track for the infamous unaired 13th episode “Epitaph One.”

I would have liked a few more commentaries on some more key episodes, but three is better than none.

  • “Epitaph One” Never-Before-Seen 13th Episode

The infamous unaired 13th episode stars Felecia Day and Zack Ward, and takes place in 2019. I would suggest not watching this episode if you want to be surprised by the upcoming relationships and events of the Dollhouse series. It doesn’t tell you the hows and whys, but it does show you things they hope to do with the series. Could be a spoiler for some; you’ve been warned.

  • Original Unaired Pilot “Echo”

This is the pilot episode that Joss pulled the plug on and thus decided to take a three week hiatus to rethink the show opener. I for one am glad he did. The episode moves too fast and gives away way too much. But, it wasn’t a complete loss, because they ended up cutting it up and sprinkling bits and pieces here and there throughout the season.

  • Deleted Scences

  • Making Dollhouse Featurette

A behind the scenes look at the making of Dollhouse

  • Coming Home Featurette

The Cast & Crew share their stories and memories of working on other Joss Whedon shows, Buffy the Vampire SlayerAngelFirefly, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

  • Finding Echo Featurette

A look at Eliza Dushku’s important role as producer and star, and how she and Joss developed the idea for the show.

  • Designing the Perfect Dollhouse Featurette

Joss Whedon takes us on a tour of the soundstage that houses the Dollhouse.

  • A Private Engagement Featurette

The Cast & Crew talk about what their ideal doll would be.

DVD Special Features Rating:

4 Little People


Once again, Shout! Factory brings you the classic TV shows you always wished were on DVD. This time it’s Garry Shandling‘s first TV series, “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” and also another one of the early FOX Network’s original programs. Maybe there is hope for Beans Baxter after all. “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show was truly one of the funniest and most original TV series of it’s time. From talking to the studio audience, to high speed golf-cart chases, this show had it all. I can not wait to re-watch this great show. “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show The Complete Series is set to be released on October 20th, 2009, so start placing you special orders now. If your only familiar with The Larry Sanders Show, you have got to get this DVD set. Look for my DVD review in October. Also look for Garry Shandling in Iron Man 2 next summer.



“Da Ali G Show: Da Compleet Seereez”
a review by Darby O’Gill

Season 1 DVD:

Going back to where it all began, well for the U.S. at least, Sacha Baron Cohen shows us just how great he can be. If you’ve never seen “Da Ali G Show,” I highly recommend picking up this DVD set. Originally airing here in the states on HBO, this six episode series would have made Andy Kaufman proud. Baron Cohen uses his three alter egos: Ali G, Borat, and Brüno, to travel cross America to interview unsuspecting politicians and celebrities. Now this is as real as it gets. I truly wonder how many agents and managers were fired for setting up these interviews. If you watch closely, at times you can see Sacha trying to hold it together, as even he can’t believe just how far the interview has managed to go. Ali G’s interviews with Buzz Aldrin and Boutros Boutros-Ghali in this season are instant classics.

Rating:

4 Little People

 

Season 1 DVD Special Features:

  • The unedited ‘Spyz’ Movie that Ali G pitches in Hollywood

This ten minute short is hilarious and I would love to know the longest it played before being turned off by a Hollywood executive.

  • Unseen footage of Borat at the Hampton’s Horse Show and the American Patriotism Event

This is just uncut footage from the show.

Sadly it’s only on the first episode, but it’s better than nothing. The nice thing is that even though it’s only the one commentary, you do get a real insight into the making of one of these episodes. They talk about the planning of one of these interviews; from how they write a list of things they would like to happen, to a list of crazy things they could only hope to happen. And more often than not they make it to the crazy list.

  • Glossary of Ali G jargon

Not really needed, but there if you want to look at it. It’s just an on screen list of words and phrases. I didn’t really look at all of it.

DVD Special Feature Rating:

2 Little People

 

Season 2 DVD:

Ali G, Borat, and Brüno are back for another six episodes of interview hijinks. The one bad thing about this series is that there are not nearly enough episodes. It’s basically more of the same as season one. But let’s be honest, is that really such a bad thing? This series could also be called a collection of the most awkward, whitest fist pumps ever. One of the best interviews of this season has to be Ali G’s chat with Pat Buchanan. Repeatedly in this interview Ali G asks Mr. Buchanan about B.L.T.’s in Iraq. At no point does Buchanan correct him that they are W.M.D.’s, and not B.L.T’s, but he even repeats it back to him. This is one of those moments that you can clearly see Sacha trying to push it as far as he can. After talking about the possibility of B.L.T.’s in Iraq, with or without mustard (gas), Ali then asks, “Is it ever worth fighting a war over sandwiches?” This is why this show is so great. Where else can you see a man be interviewed, that has no idea of what’s really going on… besides Fox News that is. And this series truly does save the best for last. On the credits of the last episode, Ali G interviews, well tries to interview, Andy Rooney. Offended. Confused. Pissed off. These are only a few words that could possibly describe Mr. Rooney’s mood. You really have to see it to appreciate it.

Rating:

4 Little People

 

Season 2 DVD Special Features:

  • Ali G gives a commencement speech to the graduating class at Harvard

This is the whole speech, which runs a little long, but funny none-the-less. The best part of watching this, is watching the uptight kid sitting behind Ali G sweat and scan the audience as Ali delivers his raunchy speech.

  • Ali G holds an educational summit, interviews linguistics professor Noam Chomsky, and visits an historic naval vessel.
  • Borat learns American football in Texas, gets a hunting lesson at an exclusive ranch, and lunches with the Arizona Republican Party.
  • Brüno dishes gossip with a Hollywood stylist, and visits a psychic to speak to his late boyfriend, and much more. (Well not really. These four things are the only special features on the DVD. I really hate when they pull this shit.)

This is just unused footage, it runs just under forty minutes, and has some nice moments in it. One of the best is when Borat is hunting in Texas and outs a hunter’s dislike for Jews. Little does the hunter know that he is talking to a Jew.

DVD Special Feature Rating:

2 Little People

 

The wait is over! Well almost. Shout! Factory has announced an October 6th, 2009 release date for “Werewolf” the complete series on DVD. I never thought this day would come! I can finally throw out those crappy bootlegs. For those of you that have no idea what I’m talking about, “Werewolf” was one of Fox‘s first original TV shows. The 1987 TV show about werewolves changed everything I ever thought about television. When I was a kid this show scared the shit out of me and I loved it. The special effects were done by non-other than the master of make-up himself, Rick Baker. Look for the DVD review in October, but if you’re like me, you’re going to reserve a copy now.

 

 

Now lets see what we can do about getting Savage Steve Holland‘s “The New Adventures of Beans Baxter” on DVD.

 

 

Oh, and one more side note, that Matthew Perry show “Second Chance“, stopped me from stealing a soda from a pizza shop. True story.